Chase just launched its first reloadable prepaid card. Called the Chase Liquid, this card is the latest development in a move to mainstream the prepaid card industry.
A few years back, prepaid cards were offered by obscure companies. The cards typically came with outrageous fees and poor customer service. Through competition, fees started to come down, and some prepaid card issuers began to develop a brand (e.g., Green Dot, UPside, and READYdebit).
As the prepaid market exploded, in part due to rising bank fees, some big players entered the fray. The first was Walmart, which offers a very good prepaid card called the Walmart MoneyCard. The next big player was American Express. Amex toyed with what it calls the Pass card, which is designed for teenagers. But more recently it launched the American Express Prepaid Card. This card is about as free a prepaid card as you’ll find, and it comes with nice features like free roadside assistance.
And now Chase has entered the market. For a monthly fee of $4.95, you get a prepaid card and access to Chase’s network of branches and ATMs. Unlike most prepaid cards, you can load cash onto the card at a branch or ATM for free. You can also withdrawal money from a Chase ATM for free. These are some of the big perks of combining a physical bank with a prepaid card.
There are some cards that don’t charge a monthly fee. But they usually make it up with fees on ATM withdrawals, online bill pay, or even with fees on everyday transactions. Still, it will be interesting to see how the Chase Liquid card stacks up to the American Express Prepaid Card, which doesn’t charge a monthly fee. One advantage of the Chase card is that it is part of the Visa Network, which is more widely accepted than American Express.
Here’s a summary of what the card offers:
- Refill the card with cash or checks at Chase’s 10,500 DepositFriendly℠ ATMs and 5,500 branches nationwide;
- Withdraw cash at Chase’s 17,500 ATMs and 5,500 branches nationwide;
- Sign up for direct deposit – paychecks or government benefits such as Social Security;
- Transfer funds to Chase Liquid from Chase accounts on Chase.com or at Chase ATMs;
- Check balances – whether at Chase ATMs and branches, on Chase.com, via text, or by speaking with a customer service representative;
- Receive online or paper statements;
- Replace lost cards;
- Receive account alerts via text or email, and check balances via text; or
- Call customer service (customers have access to English- and Spanish-speaking customer representatives 24/7).
I’ve reviewed the terms and conditions of a lot of prepaid cards. And the Chase Liquid is certainly one of the best. Add to that the fact that it’s issued by a bank with branches and ATM locations, and the card is an excellent alternative to a traditional checking account. If there’s anything missing, it is a linked high interest savings account. Perhaps Chase will add this feature to the card in the near future.
Published or updated July 10, 2012.